Can an Art Teacher Coach a Sports Team?

In general, our world lumps “art kids” in a different box than “sports kids.” When you add in media representations of art kids being quirky, awkward loners or misunderstood geniuses, the separation grows more distinct.

In the same way, working as an art teacher often seems at odds with coaching a sports team. But, the change of scenery can be a big help in reaching those students with which you may otherwise have a hard time connecting. I see coaching as another tool for connecting with students. I coach the ultimate frisbee team at my school. It’s allowed me to connect with students in a way I never could in the classroom.

5 Ways Coaching Could Help Your Teaching

frisbee and paint

1. It shifts the setting.

Being able to work with your students in something other than an academic or content subject area can be a game-changer. Most students make a conscious choice to play sports, so their investment and commitment can be markedly different from their engagement during the school day. Additionally, this may be a space where a student can really flourish and show their passion. Being a coach gives you a chance to support them in an endeavor where they can feel successful! Once you’ve made a connection with the student on the playing field or in the gym, you can bring that back into the classroom as part of a conversation, or maybe even as a subject for a project!

2. It changes your image.

Rather than getting pigeonholed as the art teacher who never leaves the studio, getting out and about to support students in their athletic endeavors changes how you are perceived. And not just by students, but also by the other teachers and administrators in your school. We know art teachers get asked to do all sorts of “arty” and aesthetic things for their schools. This is a chance to shine and contribute in an unexpected way.

3. It allows you to get some exercise.

Getting out and moving around with students is just plain good for you! Being physically active helps with your own energy and enthusiasm, and that can carry over into the classroom. Moving around and staying active with your students can also help you multi-task and take the place of that visit to the gym you never seem to get to. And when the weather is nice outside, it’s awesome to get some sun and fresh air!

art teacher coach

4. It lets you meet people from other schools.

As a coach, you’re the first point of contact when you travel or host games. It’s a chance for you to get to know other teachers and staff at neighboring schools when you play against each other. Therefore, coaching can give you a bit more insight and connection to what’s happening in other schools and communities. Networking as a coach also doesn’t hurt if you’re looking to build a professional learning community of teachers or educators. All too often art teachers feel isolated as the arts specialist in their schools. This is a chance to get the names of the other art educators in your district or beyond and build your community of support.

5. It’s fun and puts extra money in your pocket.

While coaching, you’re often in a more relaxed atmosphere that encourages conversations around non-school topics. This setting makes it easy to form stronger bonds with your students and simply have fun. Plus, many times, coaching is compensated at schools in addition to your normal pay. It never hurts to make a few extra bucks!

Overall, coaching provides an enjoyable opportunity to work with students in a way that can really help them build their confidence. So put on some sweats and get out there to coach your students to victory!

What sports do you coach?

In what other unexpected ways do you engage with students outside of the classroom?

Raymond Yang

Ray Yang is a Middle and Upper School Art Teacher and Teaching Artist in Seattle, WA. He is a passionate advocate for social justice and believes the arts can change the world.


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  • Nick Goodhue

    I love the thoughtfulness behind this idea and extending yourself into more areas than just the art-making world. In my curriculum I use many contemporary artists working with sports and sports symbols as a vehicle for social conversation. Teaching middle school, SO many of my students are obsessed with sports. By integrating sports into an artful conversation I have been able to hook many students who I am not sure I would have been able to as immediately or successfully otherwise.

  • Susanne Ledingham

    Thank you for the article and for opening our (art teacher) eyes to the possibility of stepping outside of our art studios and engaging with our students in an entirely new way. Several years ago I was asked to help coach the girls basketball team and I have been doing it ever since. As well as being the assistant coach, I bring a bit of my arty-ness to coaching… by having the girls wear colourful socks during practice, by selecting the soundtrack for the season and bring the tunes for the bus rides, and by being in charge of the pizza party at the end of the year (in my art studio). Coaching is another great way to connect with the kids!

  • Mr. Post

    My friend mel jacobson taught high school pottery and was the swimming/dive coach for 30 years. Some of his swimmers went to the Olympics. Muscle memory is part of both endeavors and so his swimmers swam more laps than any other team and his pottery students made more pots than everyone else.

  • Raymond Yang

    It’s awesome to hear about other art teachers experiences coaching and working with students. And absolutely, it’s an opportunity to bring something kids are really excited about into the classroom. It’s a hook, and often for teachers, a way to break out of the stereotypes that others have of artists. Would love to hear more coaching experiences!

  • Bob

    I have organized our school’s fencing club for several years and I’ve helped with the climbing wall. Both are good opportunities to interact with kids I don’t have in my classes, and to build better relationships with those I do have in class.

  • Taisia Mills

    I teach elementary art an also coach middle school soccer. I coach a co-ed 6th grade team in the fall and an all girls 7th-8th grade team in the spring. Coaching is a form of teaching. You see where the students/athletes need to be and you get them there. Your path you take is to teach the skills like we teach the skills and the process in art. The goal is an end and final product like the win in a game, but ultimately the goal is growth in your students/athletes. It’s very similar. If there is growth and love of what you are doing, your players will continue to progress in their sport as well as in their art!

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